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Kathryn writes: "Last year, in 2006, while serving as a missionary to college campuses in Chile, I came out of the closet

and was subsequently asked to leave ministry. Since then I've engaged in those nerve-wracking discussions in which I've tried my hardest to learn how to hold my head up and without shame speak clearly to the fact that I believe God loves me just the way I am. I've emailed, written letters, or spoken with former students, bosses and colleagues, my father and even my pastor. Each time I explained myself, I honed a little bit better a description of who I am. A few months ago, I wrote a letter to one of my best friends in which I summarized my journey thus far as a queer Christian."

Dear Jack, Thanks for responding to my email. It’s good to know that you are still doing well, learning new things, experiencing new things, meeting new people. I hope God is blessing you lots. There are lots of things I want to say to you; let’s see if I can make sense of them all. First of all, I am glad that you wrote back, because I miss you as a friend. But as someone who once considered you one of my best friends, I wish I hadn’t had to pester you to talk to me. I wish that you had told me you didn’t feel comfortable talking anymore (as others have done), instead of just stopping communication. I wish there weren’t limitations placed on whether or not we can “continue dialogue.” I wonder what kind of friendship it is that we had/have wherein the only possible reason for talking to me is to change my mind about a certain point of doctrine, or wherein your desire to be my friend stops cold when a)we disagree or b)you are angry or disappointed with me. Of course I understand that you felt sad, or angry, or confused about everything I’ve done and experienced recently; but I don’t understand your corresponding actions, and wish that you had talked to me about how you were feeling. However, these are just wishes, not “you should have’s” or “you shouldn’t have’s”. My theology of the Breaking of Fellowship is still very cluttered and unclear. I think it’s a situation (or doctrine?) that very few of us have had to think about or live through, so it’s logical that not everything is going to be easy to ‘play by the rules.’ Witness all the different reactions that there have been, from a range of people who supposedly all believe in the same bible. I do want to make one other point, as well. You are right when you say that there have been some major changes in my life this past year. Absolutely. But lots of things about me, the person you knew, also didn’t change. For example, my desire to live and serve in Chile never changed—I told them honestly how my interpretation of a specific doctrine had changed, and they asked me to leave. Another example—my desire to be a part of the Christian community that I spent a decade building up in Florida never changed—but because of differing doctrine, I’ve been asked to leave that as well (in a myriad of ways, polite, caring, angry, etc). Final example, and perhaps most important: my desire to be in relationship with, serve, obey, and honour God has NOT changed. It hasn’t. In fact, I’ve behaved exactly the way I always have. I begin to question and study a particular aspect of God, the bible, or our faith. I

believe God speaks to me to guide that study. My life reacts to that particular belief. In other words, the sequence of events that happened this past year was NOT: Know I’m in sin—don’t care at all—rebel against God and leave Chile—do whatever the heck I want. It was much more like: Wonder if homosexuality is sin—study, pray, weep, fast, read, talk, dialogue, attend different churches, more prayer and more weeping—believe that I hear God guide me —be honest about this with my community—accept the consequences—continue living my life, with God alongside me. Do you see the difference? I realize that perhaps all that I accomplish with this is convincing you that rather than being in rebellion, I’m simply thoroughly deceived, but I at least want to try and help you to see it from my perspective. To me, the whole process has been much like the original process of conversion. Hesitantly step out onto a ledge of belief, one that very few people in my social circle consider wise or sane, but I do it anyway because I believe I see God there, continue learning all my life (i.e. do not have the ability to explain or understand it all at once), and in time grow to understand better my God, the specific doctrines, and the community that believes what I do. At any rate, the only thing you actually asked me to write about was why I believe homosexual behaviour (you actually specified marriage, but is it ok if I focus on behaviour? I never believed homosexual marriage was a sin, because I see it as a legal contract to be provided and recognized by government, and see it as a civil rights issue rather than a religious one. Also, modern marriage as our cultures view it today is not biblical at any rate, although it may or may not be godly.) is not a sin. I am perfectly willing to talk to you about that, although I think it’s going to be more complicated than you think. I’m not so daft as to have found one twist on a verse which allows me to believe a different interpretation and be fine. Rather, as I mentioned above, it’s an extremely long process—simply a part of the life-long process of getting to know God, his character, and his words to us. So even explaining the basics will take forever. I hope that reassures you a bit—at least I’m not treating the subject lightly, trying to find a quick fix so I can do whatever I want. I’ll try and sum up here. I think there are two main paths that people take when wanting/wondering about challenging the sinfulness of homosexuality, or really any socially accepted doctrine (such as slavery less than two centuries ago). One is to pick apart each individual relevant verse, trying to find other definitions and exegeses and commentaries and bits of church history that will allow you to distinguish another possible interpretation. I think this is the route that most people expect me to be taking, and thus ask me what I make of such-and-such a verse. You’re right that I’ve sent several (hundred?) emails on this subject already; since I’ve left Chile, and in the months beforehand with Pastor D. I can’t copy and paste them, however, for a couple of reasons. They’re not in logical enough order to be understood properly, and they’re LONG. Do you have any idea how much study and discussion can center around those lone six passages? (eight if you include the creation narrative and jude 7) I’m sure you’ve heard or read the most common, basic arguments as to why those texts are not saying homosexual behaviour is sinful, and I do have to admit that not all of those ideas are particularly

convincing. But I must have read hundreds of other perspectives by now—by authors gay and straight, pastors, theologians and lay people. There must be a million ways of approaching those texts! (not altogether surprising, when you consider how often we can read over a particular text during our walks with God and always learn something new…Pastor D.´s ability to always find something new in Luke 15, for example) I’ve read discussions of vocabulary, syntax, writing style, church history, Paul’s personality, God’s plan for Israel, Jewish perspectives to the OT passages, feminist perspectives to all of them, different cultural approaches, you name it. And what impresses me most about these different ideas is that they are all different. Surely God can’t have let that happen by accident, allowed it to be possible to interpret scripture in so many different forms? (example: denominations.) To me, He seems to enjoy diversity. But I’m getting off track. The other major path when talking about this issue is to go the opposite direction— instead of picking apart the scripture and trying to put it back together in a more logical way (to you), you simply begin to drift further away from trusting the scripture at all. Who actually wrote Romans, or 1 Corinthians?, you ask yourself. Who decided the canon, and what social forces were behind or against that? Why is it that there appear to be changes in God’s character hidden within the pages; why does Jesus claim He’s appeared to uphold the law, but in certain instances defy it? Why is there neither male nor female for Paul in general theology, but in marriage and in the congregation they are sharply defined? You can see that there are a multitude of questions possible. At the base of them all is the question of how God wants you to read and understand the bible. You don’t necessarily question the existence of God, your relationship with Him, or what He and the bible has done in your life, when you dare to ask Him, ‘God, is this your holy book? Is it a book you want me to read because it’s inerrant or despite its errancy? Should I receive it with divine authority, as a merely human creation, or something in between?’ I have asked this of God previously in my spiritual life, and don’t see it as disrespectful at all. So those are the two main things that happen to folks, I think, when they start to question this doctrine. I think both are valid, and have dabbled in both, learning lots even as I don’t agree with everyone. My personal path has been a bit different, but has definitely included both detailed exegesis and prayer, and seeking upon the nature of the bible. However, following both of these paths, I haven’t reached any conclusion yet. That’s why I don’t consider them my central path. How did I reach my decision? For it certainly seems like I’ve made up my mind already, doesn’t it? (As you put it, ‘I’m set.’) In the first place, I’ve realized I haven’t really reached any conclusion yet, about lots of things, and I’m ok with that. If I never reach a conclusion I’ll be ok with that. God hasn’t ever abandoned me in the middle of a journey, just as He never abandoned the Israelites wandering through the desert, though they never reached a destination (that first generation, at least). I have no problem loving, believing in, or serving God even if I float in questions for the rest of my life. Secondly, the conclusion I have reached, which can be summarized as: ‘I think that God is fine with same-gender love and relationships’, is based on personal experience. That’s the buzz-word, you know. I’m well aware that in evangelical circles, our experience, our ideas, our heart is not to be trusted. And I understand this. I’m not as smart as God, so even though I (for example) wish the holocaust had never happened, that doesn’t change the fact that it did, in fact, happen. But I believe I’ve tightened up

this idea a bit. No, perhaps I can’t construct my beliefs upon my desires, but I believe I can construct them upon my experiences. In this specific case, I don’t believe that homosexuality is ok because I want it to be, but rather because of the churches I’ve visited that accept gays and still join in communion with God, the single and partnered gay and lesbians that I’ve met that have rich relationships with Jesus, the scholarship I’ve read from gay theologians who treasure the word and know it more intimately than I ever did, and my own personal experience, living daily with the presence of my saviour, though I am deeply involved in a same-sex relationship. What can I say? The simple fact is that my relationship with God has not suffered. In fact, it continues to grow forward, just like always. And suddenly, seeing it from this side of the debate, I am shocked at how arrogant I was to ever think that I could dare to tell someone that they weren’t ok with God. Well, I never said it out loud, but I thought it plenty of times. ‘That person is in sin, they must be far from God.’ Really? How could I possibly know that? How could any person know that about any other person? I’m getting off track again. My point is that I believe that my life is ok with God because I’m the one living my life, and I am ok with God. Yes, I totally recognize that that will sound, to you, like the most irresponsible theology ever. But just consider this for a moment: my entire walk with God, from conversion to becoming a campus pastor to witnessing to serving in church to going to Chile to my relationships with other Christians, all of it, has been based on what I think God has said to me, on what I believe are my experiences with Him. So why should I start to doubt that now? Either I consider the fact that the Holy Spirit is still speaking to me, crazy as the particular idea may sound, or I need to question everything I’ve ever talked about with Him. I see no reason to do the latter. So that’s that. Because of my personal experiences, and my ongoing and on-growing relationship with God, I believe I am not in sin. I will continue to study in the other two paths, seeking the exact meaning of the relevant passages and the exact character of the bible itself, but I no longer see those studies as having the potential to derail my faith or my life, since I believe that God has already answered me (the specific answer lies mostly in Mark 2, but we can talk about that later if you want). Too long, right? Sorry. If I’d really copied and pasted like you wanted it would have been the length of a dictionary. Love, Kati